What speakers to buy?

So I have about $5000 to spend on speakers for my entertainment room but I have no clue where to start and what to do. My wife thinks it’s a waste of money but I’ve heard at some friends places what a huge difference speakers can make.

Any advice and where to start? If someone can give me advice on what they would buy and why I would be very grateful :bow:

Do you have AV Receivers? What model?

You’ll get as many opinions on this as there are CDF members. You’re correct that you should start with speakers and work your way back through the chain of components, spending as much on them as possible. The good news is that $5k is plenty, so it’s really a matter of what is available in your corner of Europe.

Personally, I am a rabid fan of JBL speakers. They are one of the most under-rated and under-marketed speakers there is, yet have been around longer than most and command a very loyal base of fans. JBL has a history of producing “transparent” speakers. That is to say that they impart no audio characteristics of their own to the sound. You hear a very clean, crisp and uncolored sound. For the money, the Studio L Series are amazing speakers. This is what I would be buying today if I wanted a complete new set.

L890: L-R
LC2: center
L8400P: sub
L820 or L830: surrounds

That setup will blow you away with the right AVR, and do it for far less money than most other brands with similar performance. I just priced a 7-ch set at Amazon for $3100. Add a second sub (recommended) for $3600 total. 2 subs may require an appropriate AVR to run them.

I’m with CDan about JBL speakers. They have some of the best value deals going, IMO. I love the older JBL models and in fact still use a set of L100T3s for the main speakers of my home theater setup. They are so good that I really haven’t found the need to buy a subwoofer for the system. I bought them new in 1990 and they have worked flawlessly for 18 years! The ones CDan listed are good but JBL also makes some incredible high end speakers too. Here’s a link to their web site for home audio speakers: http://www.jbl.com/home/products/default.aspx?HideMenu=N&Language=ENG&Country=US&Region=USA

BTW, you are right to focus on speakers to get the best from a system. The rule of thumb I have used is that 50% of your budget should go to the speakers. On a home theater system that may even be 60-65% since there are anywhere from 5-7 speakers needed. Also, don’t go cheap on the cables. They make a difference too. You don’t need super high end cables but at least go with ones that contain OFC for the wiring.

One last thing, I am also a fan of the Sony ES line of AV equipment. They have a range of prices that will fit almost any decent budget.

<wierd Twilight Zone music plays>

Mysteriously changing member names. Has Domi been kidnapped? What’s the ransom?

Your question is huge as there are so many brands to pick from. I have been playing at this for about the past 4 months. As both mentioned above there are many under-rated speakers out there that will in fact outperform more expensive brand names. Probably read 100 speaker reviews in that time as well. My best advice is browse the shops and actually audition the speakers you may have in mind. Many times I have walked in a store and they have the speakers cranked and the sub is rolling out that 120 foot pressure wave that almost knocks you off your feet. Sounds and feels good but are you actually going to run that volume in your home. (-10 reference volume probably not).:eek: By audition I mean make the sales guy work for his money. Turn off the sub and listen to the speakers indivdualy @ normal volume. They should be crisp in the high’s and robust in the lows. Some are way too bright (tinny) in the highs and muddy in the lows. Once you have listened to the speakers in question you can have the sub turned back on. By doing this you can actually tell what the individual speakers are capable of. It’s mostly a personal preference thing but I think you get the drift. Another thing to keep in mind is they may sound excellent with a 5.1 movie but might not make the cut when listening to music. Most of the reviews I have read have good advice. Don’t be cheap when it comes to the Center channel and Sub. Good luck and good hunting.:slight_smile:

One thing to remember about listening to systems in the store is that they hardly ever sound the same in your home. What you think sounds good in a sound room or showroom can be quite different in a larger/smaller room in your home with little sound deadening on the walls and hardwood floors. It is also a good idea to buy from a store that allows returns and/or exchanges.

So you have $5000.00 to spend. You can buy some nice setups for that kind of cash, but there are two key ingredients that have to be answered first.

Your Amp’s Specs?
The Size of Room?

:cool::cool:

How about Polk Audio?

Usually Frys have good sales on Polk Audio, such as currently this R50 floorstanding speaker from $200 retail sale to $60.
http://www.frys.com/product/4005092

I bought a couple set few years ago (black) to replace my satellites bookshelf (also Polk) and the sound difference is very significant.

Another suggestion.

Klipsch Reference Series RF-63 Home Theater System ( $5,294.00 )

http://www.klipsch.com/products/details/rf-63-home-theater-system.aspx

:cool::cool:

What you buy should depend on your personal listening preferences.
Speakers selection have always been a personal decision.
While all of the above recommendations are admirable, they are valid only from the posters’ point of view.

No one is qualified to recommend speakers without first qualifying your needs. However, guidance as far as brand selection may provide useful input to those not familiar with today’s audio choices.

The industry standard calls for speakers that are “faithful”. That is, speakers that can accurately reproduce the signal processed by the amplifier [B]WITHOUT[/B] changing the characteristics of the sound. No sound coloration, no excessive frequency exaggerations.
The standards also calls for tone controls on the amplifier to be set in a neutral (flat) position. Assuming that the above criteria is adhered to, the speakers should faithfully produce a “flat”, “faithful” sound.

Unfortunately, this is not the preference for most listeners. Hence the varied recommendations.

Speaker performance varies dramatically with different amplifiers as well as room acoustics. Tone controls are generall used to compensate for these varying differences.

Ask yourself a few questios before you begin your questions:

What do you want from the speakers?
Faithfullness, boom, exaggerated highs, great imaging, superior soundstage reproduction, invisibility, show piece, etc,.

What will be the general application for the speakers? Home Theater or critical audio listening?
eg. Martin Logan speakers are great for the dynamics required for Home Theater listening but will not match the accuracy from B&W speakers for critical audio listening.

What are the acoustical properties of the room in which the speakers will be placed and how is the room furnished?
Is the room carpeted or does it have hardwood floors?
eg. Klipsh speakers are never recommended for hardwood floors as the manufacturer employs an exaggerated high frequency boost to compensate for the lack of presence in the speaker components.

Consider the size of the speakers in relation to possible placement in the room. Do not be suckered into large speakers if they do not meet your needs. A modestely sized speaker system can easily out perform some large speakers when complemented by a properly placed subwoofer.

Consider the room layout, as it general determines speaker size and placement.
Consider room decor, if you want to minimize static from your wife.

What amplifier?
Speaker performance can vary with amplier output. Watts is not the only determining factor for amplifier power as there are no standards for measuring the output power for amplifiers.
High Current amplifiers will generall promote better speaker performance. That is one reason why most people complain that the speakers always sound better in the showrooms. Sales people will [B]ALWAYS[/B] demo with a decent amplifier as they will show off the product.

Most importantly, as mentioned above, shop only with retailers that have a liberal return policy. This will allow to to return any speaker system that did not audition well in your house.

Speaker selection is the toughest decision one has to endure in putting together a system.
After all, no other system component affects the overall sound as much as the speakers do.

Finally, let your ears be the judge!!!
These are your speakers.

[quote=Nemesys;2045401]

Ask yourself a few questios before you begin your questions:

What will be the general application for the speakers? Home Theater or critical audio listening?
eg. Martin Logan speakers are great for the dynamics required for Home Theater listening but will not match the accuracy from B&W speakers for critical audio listening.
Finally, let your ears be the judge!!!
These are your speakers.[/quote]This is what bit me in the A$$, My original set up sounded great for HT but when I threw in a CD (Santana Essentials) they definitely didn’t make the cut for my ears and I am by no means an Audiophile but I like my music. Changed the front speakers 3 times and ended up getting bigger drivers. 6 1/2" vs 5 1/2". Now my music sounds very nice in Stereo mode. More natural.

@platinumsword. Don’t you think that center channel speaker is a tad on
the small side.:eek:

[QUOTE=Nemesys;2045401]The industry standard calls for speakers that are “faithful”. That is, speakers that can accurately reproduce the signal processed by the amplifier [B]WITHOUT[/B] changing the characteristics of the sound. No sound coloration, no excessive frequency exaggerations.
The standards also calls for tone controls on the amplifier to be set in a neutral (flat) position. Assuming that the above criteria is adhered to, the speakers should faithfully produce a “flat”, “faithful” sound.[/QUOTE]

This is one of the reasons I like JBL speakers. I have L100T3s, L80T3s, L60Ts, L20Ts and L3s powered by Pioneer and Sony ES equipment. I drive all these speakers using the “Direct” output from the receivers. IMO, JBLs have some of the best sound reproduction characteristics of any speakers sold in a given price range. Their “L” series are the direct home counterpart of their studio monitors used by a majority of recording studios for decades. This is why, IMO, they provide such great sound with flat settings on the electronics that drive them. All this being said there are also many other good brands but it is hard to beat the value that JBL delivers and they have a wide range of products to fit almost any budget. Especially for home theater applications.

[QUOTE=crossg;2045483]This is what bit me in the A$$, My original set up sounded great for HT but when I threw in a CD (Santana Essentials) they definitely didn’t make the cut for my ears and I am by no means an Audiophile but I like my music. Changed the front speakers 3 times and ended up getting bigger drivers. 6 1/2" vs 5 1/2". Now my music sounds very nice in Stereo mode. More natural.[/QUOTE]

This is the main reason I keep the JBL L100T3s as my front speakers. They not only sound great playing movies but they also sound great for general stereo listening. I’m not sold that the prepackaged theater setups perform well for regular stereo playback and is a good reason to mix and match models, series and even brands to get a well rounded system.

That’s the words I was looking for :slight_smile: and I agree if you can piece together a system that works well in both dept’s you will be better off in the long run. But again it comes back to personal preference and user needs.

As Nemesys stated.

Speaker selection is the toughest decision one has to endure in putting together a system.

[QUOTE=crossg;2045514]That’s the words I was looking for :slight_smile: and I agree if you can piece together a system that works well in both dept’s you will be better off in the long run. But again it comes back to personal preference and user needs.[/QUOTE]

The reason I bought the L80T3s and L20Ts is to put together a home theater system using the L100T3s in the from, the L20Ts in the center and the L80T3s in the rear. IMO, I think this will make for a great HT setup while also having fantastic stereo playback. The funny thing about this configuration is it uses speakers that were manufactured and sold in the late 1980s and early 1990s. The other interesting thing is a vintage “L” series speaker setup can be put together for less than $1,000 and it sounds as good, or better, than many of the higher priced systems sold today. This can be done with many brands like Polk, Infinity etc.

Actually, when it comes to sound reproduction, I don’t feel the current speakers (maybe with the exception of very high end pieces) deliver that much better quality, if any better, than many of the older variants. The one area that modern speakers excel is in packaging, size and style. They can blend into a room easier and make the wife happier but, IMO, there is a price paid for this too in making them well rounded systems. My wife can complain about my rather large L100T3s sitting in the living room but I have to remind her that I have known these speakers longer than I have known her and she shouldn’t force me to choose between the two of them. :cool:

LOL.:bigsmile: Most women would probably prefer something like this but I don’t think they would make the cut for me.:slight_smile:


[QUOTE=UTR;2045530] My wife can complain about my rather large L100T3s sitting in the living room but I have to remind her that I have known these speakers longer than I have known her and she shouldn’t force me to choose between the two of them. :cool:[/QUOTE]

I have a pair of JBL S312 sitting here that I feel the same way about. They don’t need a sub either.

Also have an old pair of L96 that the cones have rotted out of. Can’t bear to throw them out. :sad:

The JBLs of yesteryear were true gems.
Short of my Rectilinear 3s, my JBL 4312s Studio Monitors were as good as it gets. But this was an audio system with Home Theater not even on the horizon. Ooops, I am showing my age here.

But these along with JBL L Series are a thing of he past.
Although they were largely responsible for the evolution of the standards that now exists, they lack the dynamics for Home Theater applications and one will definitely find it a challenge selecting a center channel speaker with matching Sonic Signature in today’s speaker market. The bar has been set too high.

As Greg mentioned, the trick today is a compromise. The ability of the speaker system to maintain the sonic integrity required for great audio performance while catering to the Home Theater enthusiast.
Matching the Sonic Signature is the key here as you want to maintain equality in tonal balance as the effects transition from left to right, front to back.

This does not necessarily mean that all the speakers should be from the same manufacturer. Ideally, this would be the preference, but quality center channel and rear speakers are usually a bit expensive if thay are to maintain the standards effected by the main or front channel speakers, especially if the front speakers are large. And if Home Theater applicability is not critical then the OP would have the flexibility to devote more resources where it is preferred. Hence, my non-recommendation for speaker packages.

[QUOTE=Nemesys;2045602]
This does not necessarily mean that all the speakers should be from the same manufacturer. Ideally, this would be the preference, but quality center channel and rear speakers are usually a bit expensive if thay are to maintain the standards effected by the main or front channel speakers, especially if the front speakers are large. And if Home Theater applicability is not critical then the OP would have the flexibility to devote more resources where it is preferred. Hence, my non-recommendation for speaker packages.[/QUOTE]

I’d differ, strongly, with this statement. The odds of finding speakers from different makers that have similar sonic characteristics are slim to none. There’s nothing more disappointing than listening to a 5 or 7 ch surround system with un-matched speakers, when compared to one with matched speakers. Not even in the same class. Given the $5k budget here, there’s no reason to be looking at anything other than a matched set. And since this thread is in a HT forum, it stands to reason that HT is the goal. And the budget also allows selection of a pair of mains that will be more than adequate for 2-ch music.